29 May 2014

Excerpt Thursday - SULTANA: THE BRIDE PRICE by Lisa J. Yarde

This week, we're pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals' contributor Lisa J. Yarde with her fourth novel in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, SULTANA: THE BRIDE PRICE. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free copy of Sultana: The Bride Price to a lucky blog visitor in any preferred format; digital only to readers outside the U.S. or paperback or digital to US readers.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

In fourteenth-century Moorish Spain, a marriage of convenience for the sake of peace leads to disaster in the medieval kingdom of Granada. The young queen Jazirah, caught up in a dynastic struggle between warring brothers, fights for her survival. Wed to a husband who looks at her with more suspicion than lust in his eyes, she must escape reminders of a brutal past in a quest to find forgiveness, hope, and love.

Her husband Muhammad faces greater peril than union with a wife he cannot trust. Surrounded by enemies within his family who seek the throne and undermined by ministers who would alter the course of his country’s future, he intends to rule the land of his ancestors alone. How can he endure against his most bitter opponents, not least among them, the woman whom he has chosen for a bride?

**An Excerpt from Sultana: The Bride Price**

When Jazirah stood alone before her husband, she lowered her arms and faced him again. She began, “I respect you, my Sultan, as lord of Gharnatah, my husband, and father to the royal prince, but you must also acknowledge my status as his mother. I never want to see him in Haziyya’s arms again. I would not entrust your concubine with my son.”
A lazy grin stretched across Muhammad’s lips. “He is my heir and she would never harm him for love of me. You do realize Yusuf and Haziyya’s daughter are siblings. I love my children equally and wish them to grow in each other's company. Leila shall come to rely upon her brother.”
“Yusuf had no fever this morning. If Haziyya’s child is ill, then they should not be together at all. My son is barely a year old. He is susceptible to all manner of illness. I will not have him endangered.”
Muhammad shook his head and reclined on his side against the cushions at his back.
She drew closer until she stood at his feet. “You will not gainsay my wishes. I am the boy’s mother—”
“And I am his father!”
“A fact you are happiest to assert whenever you wish to frustrate me! I will not relent. Return Yusuf to my care at any time your concubine and her child are with you. I do not doubt your love for our son.”
Muhammad had proved an excellent father, indulgent and always desirous to spend time with Yusuf. Shortly after the birth, he had pestered the midwife for proper instruction on how to swaddle and support his child. He had even carved the ornate crib in Jazirah’s room, along with its twin placed in a corner of the sunlit gallery.
Now he yawned. “You are depriving our son of a proper upbringing beside his sister, but you may have your preference. When they are older, they might…..” He trailed off and cradled his head on an upraised hand.
She inhaled, startled by his acquiescence. She had expected to argue with him long into the evening hours. When would their quarrels ever end?
She mumbled, “Th-thank you. I won’t trouble you further.”
As she turned to leave, his fingers closed on her wrist. She gasped, startled to find him upright and alert, when he had appeared so indolent a moment before. He tugged her arm until she had little choice except to crouch before him.
“Why do you always flee from me?” He cocked his head, his stare intent.
She swallowed. “There seemed no reason to stay.”
“For four months, since the imprisonment of my brothers for their treason, you have avoided me.” His hold tightened. “Is the sight of your husband so disagreeable to you?”
When she hesitated, his grasp became an iron band, harder than the manacles she had worn as a child of six in the dungeons of the citadel.
    “Don't lie to me, Jazirah. At court you wept for my brother, for Ismail, as my chief minister led him away.”
“I wept for your kingdom, for Gharnatah!” A heavy lump in her throat turned her tone mournful. “Strife among siblings ruined my father’s life and destroyed the bond between brothers. Now in my generation, it’s happening again. You once said our marriage would unite our family. There are still divisions between brothers. I fear for our son’s future.”
She longed to share her conversation of the earlier afternoon with Muhammad's mother, but the discussion would reveal more than a mother intended for her son to know. Foolish hope for an easy rapport with her husband lingered in Jazirah’s traitorous heart, which should have resented Muhammad for his neglect of her and favoritism toward a mere concubine whom he preferred over his wife. So long as he looked at her with doubt reflected in his gaze, they would never know the peace she desired. Still, she craved the impossible.
He slipped his hand beneath her billowy hair and cupped her nape. Her body betrayed her, for she shivered where his fingertips stroked tender skin. How was it possible for a man’s touch to soothe and stimulate at the same time?
“I did not mean for you to shed such sweet tears.” With his free hand, he skimmed a thumb beneath her eye, gliding over moisture she had not known dwelled there.
“You… you could rescind your order and restore harmony with your brothers,” she whispered.
He gave a slow shake of his head. “You know why I cannot. You know our laws as you know me.”
She did. Nothing else remained for her to say. Then why did she linger?
“Muhammad, I….”
He withdrew his hands. “Our son needs you. You should go to him.”
She nodded. “You are right.”
After she stood and plodded to the steps, he called out, “Jazirah, a Sultan, a man is oft burdened by many regrets. I am sorry for my behavior in the months before Yusuf’s birth, when I accused you of faithlessness. I have tried to be a good husband to you, but it seems I do not know how. I hope one day the past will no longer burden us.”
She stifled a sob, barely trusting herself to speak before she whispered, “I carry the same hope. It must be enough for now.”

Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. She is the author of two historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of one of the first countesses of Leicester and Surrey, Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers before the Battle of Hastings. Lisa has also written four novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, Sultana: Two Sisters, and Sultana: The Bride Price where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family. Her short story, The Legend Rises, which chronicles the Welsh princess Gwenllian of Gwynedd’s valiant fight against English invaders, is also available.